There’s nothing predictable about a weekend in the wild world of college football. There can be unexpected and shocking disappointments and unanticipated positive performances on fall Saturdays throughout the country.
The unknown is where they are coming from because even if everyone knows they will happen guessing when and where they will happen is difficult.
That’s why we’re here to make sense of things. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with its bold predictions for Week 8 of the college football season:
For as bad as Iowa’s offense has been, they have been competitive in games because of their defense, which is only giving up 9.8 points a game and are one of six teams in the Big Ten to allow less than 300 yards per game. The Hawkeyes get a reality check this week in the form of Ohio State, who lead the Big 10 in scoring, passing and total offense. Look for the Buckeyes, who are well-rested after their bye week, to expose Iowa early and often. A 50-point, 600-yard total offense effort isn’t out of the question, especially if wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba returns from a bothersome ankle injury. — Scooby Axson
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Mississippi is an undefeated SEC team coached by Lane Kiffin that is, against all odds, flying under the radar. But the Rebels, who have to this point quietly taken care of business while rising to No. 7 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, can hide no longer. They will be in the spotlight Saturday afternoon on CBS, taking on LSU in Tiger Stadium. I think Ole Miss sends a message that it is for real and will be a real factor down the stretch in the battle for the SEC title. — Jace Evans
Kansas State beats TCU to leave no unbeaten teams in the Big 12 and a wide-open conference race with just weeks left in the regular season. TCU has been rolling since promoting Max Duggan to the starting job in early September, scoring at least 38 points and gaining at least 450 yards of offense in each of his five starts. But the Wildcats have rebounded from a non-conference loss to Tulane to win three in a row thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Adrian Martinez. The combination of Martinez, running back Deuce Vaughn and a very underrated defense gives K-State the edge. — Paul Myerberg
If history is a guide, this is going to be a rough weekend for Mississippi State. Alabama has played the Bulldogs following its last two regular-season losses and won by 31 and 40 points, respectively, in 2019 and 2021. Who comes to town this week after the Crimson Tide’s loss to Tennessee? Mississippi State, of course. This year, however, the result might be different. While calling for an upset would be the boldest of bold predictions, it would not be a shock if the Bulldogs hung much closer this time around. Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers can take advantage of a struggling Alabama secondary, and that should allow Mike Leach’s team to stay in this game deep into the second half, especially if the Crimson Tide continue their struggles with penalties. — Erick Smith
UCLA’s convincing win against Utah a couple of weeks ago convinced a lot of skeptics that the Bruins are for real. That result only got more impressive as the Utes came back a week later to upend Southern California in an instant classic.
There is, however, one box UCLA has yet to check, beating a quality opponent away from Pasadena. No, Colorado doesn’t count. Oregon most certainly would qualify, though, and the Bruins are going to make it happen Saturday.
Winning at Autzen Stadium is never easy, and obviously nobody knows that better than current Bruins’ and one-time Ducks’ coach Chip Kelly. But when the chips are down (Sorry, totally unintentional.), I trust Dorian Thompson-Robinson to deliver in the clutch more than I trust Bo Nix. — Eddie Timanus
Mario Cristobal’s 3-3 start at Miami (Fla.) has been one of the more unimpressive new coaching debuts thus far. Even in wins, the Hurricanes have been pretty sloppy including last week’s 20-14 victory over Virginia Tech that featured 17 penalties for 159 yards. It has been a real struggle for Miami to hit 30 points, which they night have to do against a Duke offense that put up 35 on North Carolina, 38 against Virginia and 27 on Kansas. Duke has played a lot of close games this year, and quarterback Riley Leonard is a true dual threat guy who can be tough to contain. I’ll take Duke here to win as the more disciplined team and the team with a better feel for its identity than all-over-the-place Miami. — Dan Wolken